When I selected the components for my Core i7 machine, I picked Asus P6T motherboard because it’s overclocking friendly and its built quality. I spent several days trying to overclock it and finally got down to a configuration that’s stable and fast. For details about my setup, please refer to this post.
The tool I used for overclocking the motherboard is the built-in Ai Tweaker for P6T. The settings are:
Ai Overclock Tuner: Manual
Intel(R) SpeedStep(TM) Tech: Enabled
Intel(R) Turbo Mode Tech: Enabled (I disabled it later on)
BCLK Frequency: 200
PCIE Frequency: 100
DRAM Frequency: DDR3-1603MHz
CPU Voltage: 1.35
CPU PLL Voltage: 1.96
QPI/DRAM Core Voltage: 1.35
DRAM Bus Voltage: 1.66
CPU Differential Amplitude: 800mV
I used the ATI Catalyst beta driver to overclock the video card.
GPU Clock: 690 MHz
Memory Clock: 1135 MHz
Using these settings, the CPU clock has been raised from 2.6GHz to 4.0GHz and the GPU clock has been raised from 575 MHz to 690 MHz.
I have run two benchmark tests: PCMark 05 and 3DMark 06. The OS is Windows 7 Beta build 7000. The scores are:
PCMark 05: 10026 (original) 12423 (oc)
3DMark 06: 12010 (original) 15038 (oc)
The machine runs smoothly for weeks now. The only problem that I ran into is occassionally the computer cannot boot and complains about over clocking settings are not correct. If I turn off Turbo mode, it boots OK. I have seen some posts about running Core i7 920 at even higher clock speed, but I intend to run my machine for a couple of years. Therfore, I am happy with the current configuration.
Our tape autoloader is about 3 years old now, which means the warranty is going to expire soon. In the three years that we own it, we have sent it back for repair twice already. I am afraid it might die any time soon. Just in case you are wondering about what tape autoloader we have, it’s a Sony AIT5 autoloader. We also had a Sony AIT3 autoloader before and that one was not reliable either.
Anyway, we want to switch to disk based backup because first, tape autoloader is just not reliable enough and second, we recently subscribed to online and off-site backup service. The local backup is not that critical any more. Disk based backup should be sufficient for us.
The idea is to build a fast machine with a big RAID within $1500.00. It’s not possible to buy a name brand computer with that amount of money, so I decided to build it myself.
Here are the parts. I select these parts with stellar reviews. Only the reviews for the hard drives are not that great, but no other companies has 1.5 GB drives.
I took some photos while I assemble the machine. Here are the photos.
Take the case out of the box and lay it on a flat surface.
Gently push in the back panel and replace it with the back panel for P6T. The picture shows the back panel for P6T.
Release the load lever and remove the protective cap. Carefully insert the CPU and close the load lever. There are notches on the side of the CPU, make sure they match the ones on the socket.
Take the CPU cooler out of the box and install the brackets for LGA1366. Note that when you install the screws on the tip of the brackets, use counter-clockwise rotation to screw them in. Peel off the sticker.
Apply a bit of thermal paste and install the CPU cooler. Note the orientation, we want the air flows to the back of the board.
Turn the motherboard over and install the bracket and nuts. Turn the motherboard over and connect the fans to CPU_FAN connector on the motherboard.
Install the three RAM modules on the orange slots.
Before we install the motherboard onto the case, install the DVD burner and the hard drives first. I installed an additional hard drive as the system drive (not shown in the picture).
Install additional standoffs on the case to match the holes on the motherboard.
Install the motherboard onto the case. Note that the ATX power connector is hard to reach, you might want to connect it first before you install the motherboard.
Install the power supply.
Install the video card.
Connect all the cables. P6T includes a Q-Connector which can help you with the system panel connection, be sure to use it. One note about the cables is if you have problems figuring out the polarity. Look closely at the connectors, the positive is marked by a small triangle. Another note about the front panel connection, it’s labeled as AAFP on the motherboard. The connector for the case is labeled as HDA.
Connect the power cable and other peripherals and test it.
After testing OK, tidy up the cables and make sure they don’t obstruct air flow.
Now that I got everything assembled, my next project is to overclock the machine. Stay tuned.
There are a lot of ultra portable computers before, but what started the recent trend is Asus’s Eee PC series. 1000HE is the latest model from this popular netbook series.
Here are the key features and my thoughts.
N280 1.66GHz Intel Atom Processor: The speed increase is not that much compared to N270, but N280 is more energy efficient. It also has a faster (667MHz) FSB, so you can use faster RAM.
6 cell battery: Up to 9.5 hours battery life. When I use it to watch video, the battery life dropped to about 7 hours. Note that the 6 cell battery adds weight to the model so it is heavier than previous models with 3 cell battery.
10 inch screen and chiclet keyboard: The screen is excellent. I am glad that they did not use a glossy LCD display which I don’t like. The keyboard is the kind that you find on the MacBook. The size is 92% of a traditional notebook. It’s bigger than previous model, but still it might take you some time to get used to the keyboard. I found that the right shift key is a bit too small. I often typed the wrong key when I use it.
Bluetooth: You can now use Bluetooth devices with this model. I don’t use it often but it might come in handy. Remember to turn it off when it is not in use to conserve battery life.
Multi-touch touchpad: I like the multi-touch touchpad on my MacBook, but not on 1000HE. I found it too sensitive on the tiny touch pad. A lot of times, my scrolling gesture translates to zooming gesture. You might want to disable it.
I am used to my fast Core 2 Duo MacBook, so I feel like the performance is not that impressive. However, it still performs quite well for doing email and web browsing which it is designed for. If you want to squeeze the performance out of it, try to plug it in. When you use the AC adapter, it operates in AC mode which is faster. You can also press Fn+Space Bar to switch to Super Performance mode.
I tried to view video on 1000HE, the 320×240 YouTube video plays smoothly either in the browser or full screen. The HD content of YouTube does not play smoothly, but still viewable. Hulu’s SD content plays OK only in the browser, when you play it in full screen mode, the motion is kinda choppy. The use of the AC adapter helps a little, but not much.
For those benchmark geeks, I did install and run PCMark 05 successfully on 1000HE. The score is 1568. I ran it after I installed MS Office 2003, FireFox, Thunderbird and McAfee. I also upgraded the RAM to 2GB. Please see this post about how to upgrade the RAM.
Overall, this is a fine netbook to own and it’s currently the top selling model on Amazon. The street price is around $379.00.
I helped a user with his Eee PC 1000HE and the first thing I did is to replace the memory. The 1000HE comes with 1GB of memory and it has only one slot. Therefore, you cannot just add memory to it, you have to replace the old one. The memory I added is a OCZ 2 GB PC2-5400 667 MHz DDR2 memory. Here are the steps to install it.
Turn off the computer and remove the battery.
Turn the computer bottom side up and place it on a soft surface.
Use a screw driver to remove the two screws.
Now it’s the scary part. Gently remove the cover. The cover is secured by two tabs around the mid section. You need to apply a bit of force to get it open.
Before you touch any components inside the computer, touch any metal in your surrounding to discharge statics on you or put on an anti-static wrist strap. Gently pull out the clips from the side of the memory. The memory would pop up. Remove it.
Insert the new memory into the slot at an angle. Note that there is a notch on the memory, make sure the orientation is alright. If you have problems inserting the memory, the orientation is probably wrong.
One user called me today about his Dimension E510 cannot boot up. The system just beeped and nothing happened on the screen. The diagnostic lights 3 and 4 were both on solid green. It’s a typical case of hardware failure. Dell has pretty good documentations about how to determine the cause using the diagnostic lights.
A quick googling of “dimension e510 diagnostic lights” pointed me to the service manual of E510 on Dell’s support site. According to the manual, this is an error caused by RAM. I removed one of the RAM modules and the system booted up normally. The problem RAM module was purchased through some 3rd party vendor to save money. This is not the first time that we ran into problems with cheap RAM modules. I guess I will buy better and reliable components from now on to save me troubles.
I was working on a Dell Precision T3400 yesterday. I wanted to add an additional SATA drive to the computer to make a RAID. It took me a while to figure out which SATA connector is which. I am posting a picture for anyone who is interested in it.
The top of the picture is the back of the computer.